A Battle Unending: The Vietnam War and Agent Orange (Page 3 of 3)

The contractor – standing in the driving coastal rain and barely-audible over the din of the blue Vietnam Airlines jet taxiing a stone’s throw away on the new Danang airport runaway – asked not to be identified as he was not authorized to discuss sensitive material, but said that the contaminated soil would be excavated to a temporary mound 8 meters high by 70 meters wide by 100 meters long, and in turn baked to over 600 degrees Fahrenheit, a procedure intended to break down the dioxin into carbon dioxide, water and chloride.

The Danang clean-up is a joint project of the Vietnamese Defense Ministry and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that began in August of this year, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that her government would assist with the clean-up during a visit to Hanoi in the summer of 2010, amid tensions between Vietnam and China over the South China Sea, known as the East Sea in Vietnam, in turn prompting closer ties between the U.S. and Vietnam.

Chuck Searcy came back to Vietnam 17 years ago, 3 years before the U.S. and Vietnam normalized relations. He eventually stayed on in the one-time enemy terrain to work for the Veterans Memorial Fund, which cleans up unexploded ordnances from the war in central Vietnam. Speaking in Hanoi over a morning coffee, not far from the old Hanoi Hilton where Republican Senator John McCain was detained for five years as a prisoner of war, he recalls in sonorous Morgan Freeman-like tones that “when Agent Orange was used in Vietnam we were told it was harmless, that it was just a pesticide, and we believed that.”

For decades the U.S. government disputed the link between Agent Orange and birth defects in Vietnamese children, but that opposition appears to have relented, the Vietnam War veteran tells me.

Now things are changing, he says, acknowledging that “the U.S. government finally is doing the right thing, maybe not enough, but at least it is helping American veterans. We ought to be doing the same thing in cooperation with the Vietnamese people. That is late in the day, but is finally starting now too.”

Washington’s “Asia Pivot” will be in full focus this week, as newly-reelected President Obama visits Southeast Asia, with stops in Thailand, Burma and Cambodia. While in Cambodia Obama will participate in the East Asia Summit, where he will meet leaders from China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Australia as well as his Southeast Asian counterparts.

For its part, the Vietnamese government provides a monthly stipend of about U.S. $17 to more than 200,000 Vietnamese who are believed to be affected by the toxic herbicides. Although the program costs the Vietnamese government around U.S. $40 million annually, the stipend isn’t much for those receiving it, and  doesn’t go far.

“We would not be able to manage having him at home,” says Nguyen Thu Thon, mother of Nguyen Viet Hai, age 24, who stays at the center. “We cannot afford to hire care for him and we need to work ourselves to make ends meet, and he cannot be left alone by himself.

Currently based in southeast Asia, Simon Roughneen has written for Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, South China Morning Post, Asia Times, The Irrawaddy, ISN, Sunday Business Post and others. He is a radio correspondent affiliated to Global Radio News and has reported on RTÉ, BBC, CBS, CBC Canada, Fox News, Voice of America, al-Jazeera.

Comments
43
Nancy
November 22, 2013 at 09:12

You seem to forget, the US may recognize the use of Agent Orange and it’s effects on the vets and yes the children of the vets, but, the children of the vets are NOT being taken care of. They receive no help from our government. Just a rejection letter whenever they try to get medical help from the VA. I know that for a fact, I have a daughter that has had 14 brain surgeries due to her fathers exposure to AO. They keep denying her. And, we lost her father in 2011 due to lung cancer from his exposure to AO. At least the Vietnamese govt is admitting the problem they have there and are doing something for the victims. More than we can say of our own government.

Sunny Krownd
July 30, 2013 at 15:30

I am from Vietnam, a generation born in 1970s, now turn to 40’s. I understand, in a war, each side has their own interest. For today, after 70 years of thriving under communist regime, a major of Vietnamese recognize the true face of the robbery.  In my opinion, they have no right to claim the reopen of Orange Agent phenomenon.

Vietnam is one of land with longest history on agriculture experience. They, more than any one else even recent scientist, know how the wild plants can survive and be harmed. As I usually heard they said “nhổ cỏ phải nhổ tận gốc” while glairing at opponents in formal meeting. (To state that I had a very sort time work for a Vietnamese government owned corporation).  This means making devastating to opponent’s family, even newly born children.

So how the orange agent, which was ejected from above the air, can any how have a meaning affect? Not to mention, historically, Vietnamese, in general, have regular of an animal tribe as seen in a fairy tail “Tấm Cám”. In this tail, one sister tortured her younger half-blood and sent back the part to the mother to eat as a way of revenge.

Nowadays, let’s see how they treat people inside the country, who are not on their side? Especially, wealthy people who intent to emigrate?

For those American people or American, who made any agreement to recent Vietnam government regarding orange agent: You are totally mental dullness and are incapable of protecting and governing the human’s civilizations against savage gorilla tribe?

I, for myself and others, hope you and your politicians to call for the power of the upper opponent class people inside Vietnam rather than a treaty for a savage gorilla class.

Sunny Krownd
July 30, 2013 at 15:07

I am from Vietnam, a generation born in 1970s, now turn to 40’s. I understand, in a war, each side has their own interest. For today, after 70 years of thriving under communist regime, a major of Vietnamese recognize the true face of the robbery.  In my opinion, they have no right to claim the reopen of Orange Agent phenomenon.

Vietnam is one of land with longest history on agriculture experience. They, more than any one else even recent scientist, know how the wild plants can survive and be harmed. As I usually heard they said “nhổ cỏ phải nhổ tận gốc” while glairing at opponents in formal meeting. (To state that I had a very sort time work for a Vietnamese government owned corporation).  This means making devastating to opponent’s family, even newly born children.

So how the orange agent, which was ejected from above the air, can any how have a meaning affect? Not to mention, historically, Vietnamese, in general, have regular of an animal tribe as seen in a fairy tail “Tấm Cám”. In this tail, one sister tortured her younger half-blood and sent back the part to the mother to eat as a way of revenge.

Nowadays, let’s see how they treat people inside the country, who are not on their side? Especially, wealthy people who intent to emigrate?

For those American people or American, who made any agreement to recent Vietnam government regarding orange agent: You are totally mental dullness and are incapable of protecting and governing the human’s civilizations against savage gorilla tribe?

I, for myself and others, hope you and your politicians to call for the power of the upper opponent class people inside Vietnam rather than a treaty for a savage gorilla class.

Share your thoughts

Your Name
required
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment
required

Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief